On the Road, Part 3: Monument Valley
by Kiko Matsing
Historic Route 66, which stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles, has mostly been replaced by the Interstate system; in New Mexico and Arizona, it has largely been bypassed by I-40. Some segments still retain the old charm of the automobile-inspired Googie architecture like the Aztec Motel, but are sadly mostly run down. Called “The Mother Road” and “The Main Street of America”, Route 66 signified both adventure and optimism in post-WWII America (National Historic 66 Federation).
Shiprock is a rock formation that juts singularly above the desert plain. It is so named for its shape that resembles a 19th century clipper (Wikipedia). To us, it actually looked liked the stern of the sinking Titanic as we approached it. Afterwards, it looked somewhat like Minas Tirith, the White City of Gondor in Lord of the Rings. Coincidentally, Minas Tirith is an outcropping that was built to resemble the hull of a ship!
What the heck, might as well. It’s the only place in the US where you can be in four states all at once. Three bucks to get in so you can have your picture taken, spread-eagled, over the marker. The shabby huts, peddling Navajo knickknacks, give this tourist trap a Third World charm.
The ochre-red mesa formations (from Spanish for ‘table’) were spectacular against the blue sky.
Monument Valley, UT/AZ
The original spur to go on this road trip was the desire to see Monument Valley where John Ford shot his classic Westerns such as Stagecoach (1939), Rio Grande (1950), and The Searchers (1956), all starring the uber-cowboy John Wayne. I was so impressed by these majestic sandstone buttes, I wanted to stand beneath them, and feel downright teeny-tiny. Even in winter, perhaps not the best time to visit, they still look, well, monumental.